The November Election may be light on national political candidates, but in Santa Monica the ballot is gearing up to be heavy on local measures.

So far two measures have been placed on the ballot, a citizen initiative measure is likely to qualify in the coming weeks, and in Tuesday night’s City Council meeting two additional measures are up for Council’s vote.

These measures are a Rent Control Board charter amendment and a revenue raising property transfer tax measure authored by Councilmember Phil Brock.

The latter measure is competing with a separate property transfer tax measure that Mayor Sue Himmelrich is seeking to place on the ballot via a citizen initiative.

A citizen initiative requires signatures from 10 percent of registered Santa Monica voters in order to qualify for the ballot. Himmelrich and her two fellow measure proposers submitted these signatures on June 15 and they are currently being verified by the City Clerk. Brock is seeking to place his measure on the ballot via Council vote. 

Both measures seek to create a third tier of real estate transfer tax in Santa Monica, but differ in how much they would charge and what the revenue would be used for. 

Santa Monica already has two tiers of real estate transfer tax charging $3 per $1,000 of value on transfers under $5 million and $6 per $1,000 of value on transfers over $5 million. The second tier was established in 2020 when voters approved Measure SM.

Himmelrich’s proposed measure would charge a tax of around $50 per $1,000 in value of properties above $8 million and is estimated to raise $50 million annually. The first $10 million raised a year would be allocated for school funding and the remainder would be prioritized for building affordable housing and providing rent subsidies to prevent homelessness.

Himmelrich proposed a citizen initiative because it requires Council use the revenue for the specific purposes stipulated in the measure, creating a sustainable stream of funding for affordable housing development. It is similar to a property transfer tax measure that recently qualified for the City of LA ballot. 

Brock proposed his measure as an alternative to Himmelrich’s, which he believes is too high and doesn’t direct revenue into top resident priorities.

Brock’s proposed measure would charge a more modest $15 per $1,000 in value of properties over $8 million and is estimated to raise $11 to $15 million annually. If passed, Council could use this revenue at its discretion. Brock advises using this revenue to fund crossing guards, the reopening of all library branches, after school childcare, public safety and homeless response services, and transitional homeless housing. 

If both measures qualify for the ballot, the measure that receives the most votes will be enacted. 

During Tuesday’s meeting Councilmembers will also discuss a measure proposed by commissioners on the Rent Control Board that seeks to alter the agency’s charter to give commissioners more power over rent raises during declared emergencies.

This proposed amendment was authored in response to this year’s exceptionally high annual rent adjustment of 7 percent. Commissioners fear that this maximum allowable rent increase will put many rent controlled tenants in jeopardy, but were required to pass it as the annual adjustment is based on a set formula in the Board’s charter. This formula is based on annual inflation, which is why it spat out an unusually high number this year. 

If put on the ballot by Council vote and then passed by resident vote, the Rent Control Board would have the power to modify or suspend the annual general adjustment during declared emergencies.

This charter amendment would also set commissioner term limits, establish a registry of non rent controlled units, tighten rules around owner occupancy evictions, and remove the need for elections if commissioner candidates are running unopposed. 

More information on both initiatives can be found at tinyurl.com/July12CouncilAgenda. The meeting will begin with public input on closed session, special agenda and consent calendar items at 5:30 p.m. and can be streamed live at youtube.com/user/Citytv16santamonica.

Clara@smdp.com